An Apologist's Son

Sam Petitfils 

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).

When I was a student a Talbot Seminary many years ago, a famous Christian defender of the faith came to speak at our chapel. I’ll call him “the apologist.” The apologist wrote many helpful books to encourage people in their faith, especially in the context of the growing unbelief around them. When he spoke that day, we all were painfully aware he was dying of cancer. To help get through the lecture, he brought along his son. We will call his son, “the apologist’s son.”

The apologist spoke as he wrote, with passion, fervor, and conviction. But he grew tired and needed to have his son complete the lecture. For his part, the son spoke with anger, rancor, and, I felt, ignorance. He quoted few, if any, Scriptures. He sought to whip the audience into a fine lather, and motivate them to enlist in the cause, which was largely undefined. A few week’s later, sadly, the apologist died. He left behind a wonderful legacy, a virtual library of helpful books, and also an even angrier son.

Throughout the years, I did not hear much from the son. Then a few years ago, I saw him interviewed on a talk show. He basically repudiated all of his former beliefs, including his belief in God. Well, sort of. He says he sometimes believes, and sometimes doesn’t. I got the feeling he’s hedging his bets in case he discovers at death there is a God. He says he feels bad when he gets angry, but doesn’t know why since he’s not sure God exists.

How can we explain the apologist’s son? Quite easy, really. He never really came to faith in Christ (see 1 John 2:4; 3:9-10; 5:1-4). He possessed the outward shell without the inward reality of a true faith in Christ. He talks about guilt he feels for shortcomings, but cannot account for “guilt” in general. In a atheist world, one cannot find any rational basis for such things as conscience, guilt, or remorse. The Christian, on the other hand, has a basis for guilt, as well as truth, love, compassion, indignation, and all other matters of conscience.

The "apologist’s son" does not think he can find ultimate truth in this life, so he says in a recent book that we need to learn to live with “contradictions.” He believes sometimes and at other times he doesn’t. Sin affects rationality, the ability to think clearly. When we are born again in Christ, God grants us freedom and the ability to see clearly (John 8:34, 36).

In our age, we have witnessed a resurgence of atheism, an aggressive form of it, making inroads into all quarters of society. These things need not trouble the believer, however, because you have a more sure word of truth (2 Peter 1:19). The atheist or agnostic, on the other hand, lives in a world of contradiction. He feels guilt, but cannot explain why. He likes poetry or a beautiful sunset, but cannot account for beauty and taste in general. He tries to deny God exists, but God continually shows him and proves to him His existence and judgment to come (Romans 1:19-20). Is it any wonder so many of these non-believers get troubled so often? They know the truth deep down inside, but “suppress the truth” in their own unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). They will never find peace, or even be able to define peace until they believe in God and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.


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